The Many Problems with Prelude

I was initially very excited by the promise of Adobe Prelude (replacing Adobe OnLocation as of version CS6). The idea that it can streamline (even automate) the Digital Image Technician’s workflow of copying and checking digitally-sourced footage on-set and making proxies, thus freeing up the DIT to focus on more useful tasks, such as logging information into the footage’s metadata.

I spent a couple of days using it on a multi-camera shoot, but the results were disappointing. Allow me to count the ways:

  1. It hangs a lot
  2. It’s impossible to batch-edit metadata (it seems to work in principle, but ultimately it will hang)
  3. If any errors are detected during an ingest, none of the footage ingested shows in the project window
  4. You can create bins, but cannot open these bins in separate windows
  5. There’s no way to create metadata templates (so that you only see/edit the metadata tags you’re interested in)
  6. Ingested footage doesn’t appear in the project window until the entire ingest has completed
  7. It’s not possible to transcode footage from the project window
  8. It’s not possible to duplicate footage from the project window
  9. There’s no way to apply metadata during ingest
  10. Despite it being plastered all over the product page on Adobe’s website, there’s no way to transcribe the audio from within Prelude
  11. There’s no way to do anything clever with the metadata. For example, I was hoping I’d be able to produce copies of the clips but renamed to the scene and take number. No such luck.
  12. There’s no thumbnail view
  13. You can’t sort clips by any metadata field (in fact, you can’t display the metadata fields in the spreadsheet-like project view)
  14. You can’t set any event (notification, action) to trigger on completion of ingest
  15. There’s no way to filter the event list
  16. The help system redirects to the Adobe website (because when you’re on-set you always have a reliable internet connection)
  17. Worst of all, it seems to be corrupting files whilst copying (although I can’t prove this conclusively, I did encounter 2 corrupt copied files although the originals were intact)

Although this isn’t a case of “Adobe dropped the ball” (it is only the first release, after all), it does seem like even basic functionality that is required by all DITs is missing. Part of the reason this is so disappointing is because they already have much of this working in Lightroom. They’ve even structured the UI with a 4-room (ingest, logging, list, rough cut) metaphor along the same lines of Lightroom, but have failed to properly utilise it.

It does seem that Adobe is using Prelude to push you into moving the footage into Premiere and then doing more there, but I don’t really want to start moving data between applications at this stage. There’s a “rough cut” feature that I didn’t even use, because well, that’s what Premiere is for.

Posted: May 12th, 2012
Categories: Opinion
Tags: , , , , , ,
Comment from Peter - 8/18/2012 at 8:14 am

LIghtroom suffers from many similar problems if you want to use it in a professional environment. There are several metadata fields you can’t search or filter for (except with an “All fields” setting), you can’t create your own fields without writing a plugin (and even then there is no way to export that data), metadata for virtual copies isn’t stored in DNG/XMP files and thus stuck in the Lightroom database, there is no spreadsheet view of Images and Metadata, no way to search, replace or copy metadata between fields, there is no access to metadata fields Lightroom doesn’t have built-in support for (like “Event” and “Person Shown” from iView Media Pro catalaogs), tethering used to be extremely unreliable and occasionally loses images (since version 4 the situation has improved, but still isn’t perfectly reliable), there is no scripting or triggers (only a lua-based plugin interface), the software is quite slow since most of it is written in Lua, it wastes a lot of space on a small laptop monitor, creating more than one backup on ingest is hard, you can’t do two imports at once (you can select multiple cards in one import if you have both connected when you start it, though), basic industry standard functionality like face tagging is missing and so on.

Prelude on the other hand is a Version 1 release that didn’t see a public beta, so my guess is that they’ll incorporate a lot of that feedback into the next release since the wishlist from clients should be relatively consistent. A large part of Lightroom’s user base are photo amateurs who don’t know about metadata, so Ă…dobe’s priorities are probably a bit different there than they are with Prelude.

Comment from Jack - 8/20/2012 at 10:26 am

You’re right in that it is a version 1 release and maybe I’m expecting too much, but I have a hard time believing that people on-set will be able to use it at all as it is. There’s a big difference between “I can use it but it would really be a lot better if it could do X and Y”, versus “I can’t use it as it is”

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